by Jonathan Vatner | December 01, 2004

Institute for Culinary Research

Team toast
at the Institute for
Culinary Research

Looking for a team-building experience that sizzles? Try cooking. Culinary contests are popular, thanks to the success of TV cooking shows, says Austin, Texas-based Cathy Cochran-Lewis, a food consultant and board member of the Louisville, Ky.-based International Association of Culinary Professionals. “It’s an incredible bonding experience to cook and share food together,” she notes. 
   A growing number of cooking schools are offering programs for outside groups, such as New York City’s Institute for Culinary Education in New York City (, which has classes for 12 to 84 participants. (For more choices, see IACP’s listing of member schools at A typical agenda lets participants cook for an hour or two, then enjoy their creations and discuss the experience. Some popular formats to consider:
    " Each subgroup cooks a different dish in a full menu and has to time it so all the food is ready at the appointed time.
    " Each group is given a limited amount of time (say, two hours) to cook a full meal using ingredients provided. Judges select a winner for each category and award certificates for flavor, presentation, concept and teamwork.
    " Chefs teach groups how to prepare different dishes, then the groups rearrange, and members have to teach their new groups how to cook the dish.
    Whatever the format, “It’s the easiest team-building event you could plan,” says Shelley Young, founder/chef instructor at The Chopping Block in Chicago ( “We do all the work.” Except, of course, the cooking.